Explanations for the low prevalence of atherosclerosis in Japan versus the United States are often confounded with genetic variation. To help remove such confounding, the authors compared coronary artery calcification (CAC), a marker of subclinical atherosclerosis, between Japanese men in Japan and Japanese men in Hawaii. Findings were based on risk factors and CAC measured from 2001 to 2005 in 311 men in Japan and 300 men in Hawaii. Men were aged 40-50 years and without cardiovascular disease. After age adjustment, there was a threefold excess in the odds of prevalent CAC scores of ≥10 in Hawaii versus Japan (relative odds = 3.2, 95% confidence interval: 2.1, 4.9). Whereas men in Hawaii had a generally poorer risk factor profile, men in Japan were four times more likely to smoke cigarettes (49.5% vs. 12.7%, p < 0.001). In spite of marked risk factor differences between the samples, none of the risk factors explained the low amounts of CAC in Japan. After risk factor adjustment, the relative odds of CAC scores of ≥10 in Hawaii versus Japan was 4.0 (95% confidence interval: 2.2, 7.4). Further studies are needed to identify factors that protect against atherosclerosis in Japanese men in Japan.
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